Smart home devices are a relatively new phenomenon that allow us to automate some of the basic functionalities of our households and customize the very ways that we live. But with this market surging, it can be hard to tell what smart home devices do what and which ones are worth your time versus which are best left on the store shelf.
If you’re looking to transform your home into a smart home or you want to expand your existing smart home ecosystem, HotRate is ready to help. We’ve identified 10 of the best smart home devices on the shelves in 2020, and we’ve also put together
- 10 Best Smart Home Devices
- 1. Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Smart speaker
- 2. Wink HUB 2
- 3. Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat
- 4. Philips Hue White 60W LED Smart Bulbs
- 5. Wemo Mini WiFi Smart Plug
- 6. Wyze Cam Pan
- 7. Netgear Arlo Pro-2 Wifi Camera Security System
- 8. Logitech Harmony Smart Remote Control
- 9. Ring HD Video Doorbell Pro
- 10. August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
- Smart Home Device Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Smart Home Devices
1. Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Smart speaker
If there was one smart home device to guide them all, it would be the Amazon Echo Dot. On the surface, this device is a relatively rudimentary standalone speaker, but it can serve as the beating heart of your smart home ecosystem. Everything from your lighting to your thermostat to your stove can be controlled via voice command using the Echo Dot, and it possesses one of the largest libraries of both first party and third party skills and software available on the market today.
This third generation of the Echo Dot brings along with it some nice innovations. A more sophisticated speaker system ensures that Alexa will have an easier time understanding you, and Amazon has put in place a variety of new security protocol so you don't have to worry about accidents arising from little more than a misunderstood turn of phrase
2. Wink HUB 2
The market for smart home devices is in a phase resembling the Wild West. A range of different competitors and a vast number of protocols mean that it can be difficult to know what devices will play well together, but the Wink Hub 2 can simplify that process greatly. By connecting the Hub 2 wirelessly or via ethernet cable to your existing internet network, you can fold the usage of practically any smart home device on the market into a single app.
The Wink Hub 2 serves its purpose well. It can nimbly navigate a range of protocol from Z-Wave to ZigBee to Bluetooth and makes the syncing and management process far simpler than it is right out of the box. And the methodology for connecting together devices is rather sophisticated. More advanced users can create robust automated rules for how the different connected devices work in conjunction with each other.
3. Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat
There's certainly no shortage of smart home enabled thermostats available in 2020, but for our money, the best option is the ecobee. That's in large part due to the inclusion of Amazon's Alexa which allows you to control the temperature with your voice while also being able to use the speaker to navigate all the devices in your smart home and answer any common questions you might have.
And the sleekly minimalist design should look good in just about any home. The glossy black surface and intuitive but easy to read smart
display gives you all the information you should need at a glance, but you get what amounts to precise control over automating your home's air conditioning and heating. It integrates neatly with most smart home hubs and even comes with IFTTT support so you can get very complex with the programming if that's what you like.
4. Philips Hue White 60W LED Smart Bulbs
Smart light bulbs are the most common accessories you'll find for your smart home, but there's still no brand that's as versatile or complete in this category than Philips Hue. And while this kit does require a dedicated Hue hub to properly work, the pack of four lights for only $50 gives you an affordable and accessible means to gain full control over the lighting in your smarthome. The phone app that's used to run this smart lighting system is one of the cleanest and easiest to understand on the market, but great cross compatibility means that it can link up with practically any virtual assistant on the market.
These bulbs don't change color, but they do offer dimming functionality from your voice or your phone. You can easily split up your lights into separate groups so that you can control different rooms independently from one another.
5. Wemo Mini WiFi Smart Plug
If you're working with lighting or appliances that don't have smart home functionality built in, smart switches like this one from WeMo is one of the best ways to fold them into your home's ecosystem. The premise is simply here: the ability to turn a device on and off with your voice or through your phone. The WeMo is compatible with all of the major VAs, and setup and syncing is an incredibly simple process that can be accomplished in just a few minutes.
But while this device is pretty basic at its core, it does come with some cool features that can expand its versatility. You can easily customize the switch to turn on and off on a given schedule, but it also includes a randomized schedule that can make it appear like you're at home when you're not, a great way to scare off potential thieves.
6. Wyze Cam Pan
Whether you're looking for a DIY home security system for your home or an easy way to monitor your baby or pets, the Wyze Cam Pan is one of the easiest to use and most cost effective options available. The Pan Scan feature gives you a more intelligent perspective on the surrounding area and includes four different predefined waypoints, and it has a range of movement of 360 horizontal degrees and 93 vertical degrees.
Family sharing allows multiple people to all have access to the same camera, and you can easily add or remove members from your live streams and video recordings. You even get access to 14 days of free cloud storage that automatically records 12 second video clips whenever the motion sensor on this camera is triggered. And the presence of night vision lets you see everything regardless of the time of day.
7. Netgear Arlo Pro-2 Wifi Camera Security System
If you're just looking for a nanny camera or security coverage for your front or back door, the Wyze Cam Pan is a sensible choice. But if you want to build out a more robust security system, you may want to expand to the Arlo system from Netgear. This kit comes with both a hub and two security cameras, but the modular design means that you can slowly build out your system with more cameras if need be.
And these are easily some of the best security cameras on the market today. Their weatherproof design means they work equally well both indoors and outside, and the enhanced night vision delivers color rather than black and white results even in the darkest of environments. If you're looking to scare off potential intruders, you'll love the inclusion of an automated spotlight that can be synced up to the motion sensors.
8. Logitech Harmony Smart Remote Control
Investing in a smart home system can be intimidating at first, but it's a relief to know that you don't have to replace all of your appliances right off the bat. If you want to future proof your existing devices for your smart home system, look to the Logitech Harmony. This smart remote control allows you to bridge the gap between your traditional devices and your voice assistant hub, so you can power everything from your soundbar to your video game console to your cable box with a smart assistant.
The layout of the remote control is easy to understand but loaded down with features, and you can customize it to suit the needs of your home precisely. And if you'd rather not rely on the remote itself, it comes with a compatible app that gives you more intuitive swipe and touch controls.
9. Ring HD Video Doorbell Pro
The Ring works on the existing wiring for your doorbell, but it does a lot more than a traditional ringer. This is a video doorbell that's built to link together organically with your existing Alexa system. Installation is a breeze, and if you've bought into Amazon's digital ecosystem, integrating it with your pre-existing gadgets is a completely seamless affair that can be handled in just a few minutes.
This video doorbell offers incredibly advanced motion detection that you can customize into different motion zones, allowing you to create the perfect design for your home specifically, and you don't have to concern yourself with battery life since it connects directly to the existing wires in your home.
10. August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
If you want to ensure the safety of your family without sacrificing convenience, there's no better option than the August smart lock. These smart locks connect to your existing deadbolt, so you don't need to completely rearrange your hardware to get the advantage of smart locks. It can be installed in as little as ten minutes and requires nothing more than a basic screwdriver.
Once it's up and running, you'll be able to control your locks with your voice or your smartphone seamlessly. Not only will you be able to open and close your door without the need for a key, but the tracking system will make sure that you have full knowledge of who's coming and going, how often, and when. And the ability to administer guest access ensures that you won't have to leave a spare key out for your house sitter when you go away on vacation.
Smart Home Device Buyer’s Guide
Covering the best smart home devices and compressing them into a mere 10 items meant spreading ourselves thin. Smart home devices cover an incredibly broad number of devices that cover everything from home security systems to thermostats to lighting. Ultimately, what constitutes the best products is going to come down to your convenience, and that’s a subjective thing. Below, we’ll help you understand what you should look for in a connected home so you can more effectively find the right smart devices for your smarthome.
Picking a Virtual Assistant
The biggest decision you can make when you first start designing your smart home is what virtual assistant you plan on using. A smart speaker should probably be your first purchase, because it can serve as the command center for your entire smart home, but each is built off of a different operating system with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
There’s a decent chance that you’re already using a virtual assistant in your life. If you find yourself using Siri or Google Assistant on your phone regularly, you may be best off picking the compatible smart speaker to serve as the core of your setup. If not, we’ll break down the specifics of the three main operating systems below.
- Amazon Alexa was the first VA to come to market, so it makes sense that it offers the widest compatibility available. Most devices you’ll find will work with the Alexa ecosystem, and you’ll have a ton of skills at your disposal. And while the A.I. powering Alexa started off a bit rudimentary, it’s since been updated to better understand the context of your phrasing.
- Google is the leader in information sharing, so it’s only natural that their virtual assistant is the smartest on the market. Google Assistant may not come with the same wealth of compatibility and skills that Alexa does, but it’s easily the most clever in terms of navigation. You can get results with more vague search terms when using Google Assistant, and it can comprehend natural human speech better than both Alexa and Apple HomeKit.
- Apple HomeKit is currently the least sophisticated of all the VAs, but it’s getting there. Apple is getting better about aggressively adding new skills and integrations with Siri. For now, we mostly recommend it for people who use a lot of Apple devices in their home already, but it’s becoming a more promising VA that responds better to commands with each passing month.
Unless you’re looking at a product that’s designed specifically for a given virtual assistant, chances are that whatever smart home products you’ll find will be compatible with your chosen VA. But depending on the model, you may have to jump through some extra hoops to get it to work. We’ve been careful to pick devices with the widest compatibility available to make things easier for our readers.
When we talk about compatibility in our spec list, we’re referring to whether or not they’ve been tested to work in a native fashion with a smart house VA. In some instances, that means that the mobile app you use for Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Home can automatically detect the devices without the need for an additional app. In other instances (particularly in ones where a device needs its own dedicated hub, like with Philips Hue lighting), a native skill will be available that can bridge the gap between the device’s app smart display and your core VA.
If your particular VA isn’t listed, you may want to look up compatibility online. Chances are that you can get it up and running, but it may require some workarounds. That may mean that you have access to a more limited feature set, so be sure to look at the details carefully. For devices that aren’t directly compatible, you can often invest in a hub like the Wink or Samsung Harmony that are explicitly designed to bridge the gap between different smart device ecosystems.
If you really want to make the most out of your smart home devices, you’ll want to look at products that support IFTTT (If This Then That). We’ll get into the details of that protocol more below, but it’s a great way to customize your existing gadgets to match your specific needs.
Linking Up Your Devices
Configuration of any virtual assistant is handled through the complementary smartphone app, and you’ll generally need to download a skill and sync up the device to your Wi-Fi before you can start using voice commands. The specifics for each device are varied, but most devices come with easy to understand instructions that can guide you through the process.
If you’re looking to use your smart speaker to power gadgets that don’t offer native compatibility, you’ll want to look at investing in a secondary hub. Gadgets like the Wink Hub and Logitech Harmony can serve as a bridge between your “dumb” gadgets and your smart speakers.
Creating Customized Routines
While the ability to control your lights with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Homekit is a huge convenience, that’s just scratching the surface of what you can accomplish with most smart gadgets. Many gadgets come with a whole host of features, including the ability to set up automated timers based on your routine or split gadgets up into groups that can be used in tandem together.
If you want to get advanced with your home automation, you’ll want to peruse the skills associated with the device and your virtual assistant, because the full functionality of a given gadget can vary wildly based on what VA you use. But if you really want to put your home automation skills on display, you’ll want to look for products that offer IFTTT compatibility. This open source platform allows budding coders to create “applets” that can be shared freely with anyone and provide more nuanced and complicated control routines without having to know a single thing about programming.
Planning For the Future
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Best Smart Home Devices?
That’s a very subjective question that really comes down to what you need. We’ve selected 10 of our picks for the best models available in a range of different categories, but that’s just a starting point. We recommend that you consider what will make your life easier before you start shopping actively.
What is the Best Smart Home Hub?
The Alexa Echo is still the most well rounded of the hubs available today thanks to its wide range of compatibility and huge library of compatible skills, but Google Assistant is giving it some fierce competition. The more naturalistic A.I. functionality means you have to spend less time hunting for the exact right way to phrase your commands.
Is Echo Better Than Google Home?
The Amazon Echo was the first smart speaker to come to market, and that’s a head start that competitors have been chasing to keep up with. Due to that head start, Amazon Alexa offers the best compatibility with other smart home devices as well as thousands of skills to choose from. While Google Home has done a great job of building out its own features, we still think that the Echo is going to be the best starting choice for most consumers.
Building a smart home can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. Start by tracking down the operating system that works for you, and then just slowly start investing in gadgets that cover your most urgent needs. Our reviews can provide a great jumping off point when seeking out the best deals smart speakers and other gadgets for your home, but the guide that follows will help you learn how to find your favorite gadgets and save energy in your life with wireless automation.